Robert Noakes was born in 1947 in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Influenced by rock’n’roll and skiffle he learned to play guitar but became more impressed with the success of Bert Jansch and The Incredible String Band.
He began touring Britain and Denmark sensitively interpreting the work of American singer/songwriters. His knack for writing hook-laden songs brought him to the attention of others long before he recorded his first album. Both Archie Fisher and Barbara Dickson included his songs on their albums. In 1970, he signed for Decca and released a solo album Do You See the Lights. One of the tracks "Together Forever," became a folk-pop hit for Lindisfarne.
His next album, Rab Noakes (1972) was produced by Bob Johnston, and featured guest vocalist Gerry Rafferty. Subsequently Rab appeared on Gerry Rafferty’s debut album, Can I Have My Money Back in the same year.
He agreed to form Steeler's Wheel, with Rafferty and Joe Eagan but left before the group recorded their Top Ten hit "Stuck in the Middle with You."
They remained friends and Noakes played guitar on one of Rafferty's later albums, Over my Head. His third solo album was Red Pump Special (1973) and was recorded in Nashville produced by Elliot Mazer. The single, Branch was released in the same year and despite attracting considerable airplay it failed to chart in the UK.
Restless (1978), was recorded at John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Tittenhurst and produced by Terry Melcher. The album was released on Ringo Starr's label, Ring O'Records. It was followed two years later with a reissue of his solo album, Rab Noakes.
In the ’eighties he teamed up with some young Glaswegian musicians including Brendan Moon, Lorraine McIntosh and Andy Alston to form Gene Pitney's Birthday. Into the 'nineties this grew into The Varaflames whose members have included harmonica ace Fraser Speirs, Rod Clements of Lindisfarne, guitar ace Jerry Donahue, Pilot’s David Paton, Hilary Brooks, Jim McDermott, Deacon Blue's Ewen Vernal and Pick Withers of Dire Straits.
The singer songwriter’s health began to deteriorate as he became alcohol-dependent. He released Under the Rain in 1984 but did not make another album until 1994 when he recorded Standing Up, a scaled-down recording featuring his solo guitar and vocals. Rab started touring with The Varaflames.
Rab started touring with The Varaflames. In 1990 Noakes worked as music director for the BBC television series Your Cheatin' Heart, after which he became senior executive producer for BBC Radio Scotland.
He left in 1995 to form his own production company, Neon, with his personal and business partner Stephanie Pordage. Neon continues to provide quality TV and radio programs from its base in Glasgow's Kinning Park. Rab Noakes continues to work with harmonica supremo, Fraser Speirs. The first record on the Neon label was 'Throwing Shapes' by The Varaflames, which was followed up with Rab and Fraser’s 'Lights back on' (2001).
The Varaflames second album ‘‘Unlimited Mileage’ was released in 2007.
Rab Noakes continues to record and perform.
Worth a listen
Without Me, Just With You (1970)
Too Old To Die (1970)
Pass The Time (1973)
Wrong Joke Again (1973)
Sittin’ In A Corner Blues (1973)
November Afternoon (1975)
Waiting Here For You (1978) Long Dark Night (1978)
Call It A Day (1980)
Take This Letter (1984)
How Can I Believe You Now (1984)
I Wish I Was In England (1994)
Gently Does It (1994)
Open All Night (1994)
Together Forever (1971 )
If these shoes could talk (2000)
Learning the game (2000)
Blues around me now (2000)